“Caveat Emptor:” Don’t buy the book on Perenyi’s art forgery Career

It is Saturday morning of Labor Day weekend. I sent the rest of the family off to the opening day of dove season so that I could have a few quiet hours to read and catch up on the load of appraisals piled up on my desk. Rather than launch into the appraisal work, I decided to complete the necessary task of finishing the latest book on art fraud to be released, Caveat Emptor-The Secret Life of an American Forger. Note that this is a necessary task, not a pleasurable, enthralling, or entertaining one. This memoir which lists Ken Perenyi as its author but was very likely largely written by the Denis Donavan, the man credited on the acknowledgement page for his “indefatigable work on the computer,” covers the long and astoundingly perverse career of Perenyi as a forger of paintings.

The book opens with 1993 scene of Perenyi withdrawing the cash proceeds from a sale of a pair of Martin Johnson Heade hummingbirds that he had consigned to Christies-London from his Harrods bank account, the equivalent of $90,000. The reader is then treated to an account of where it all began, the late 60’s in Bergen County, NJ, with Perenyi as an socially inept high school flunkie who had no interest in learning anything that would lead to an honest living in the trade school that he attended. By happenstance, this pimply-faced teenager crossed paths with a group of twenty-somethings that were part of the art scene in New York City at the time and had rented an old, mysterious house nearby. They quickly took him in and introduced him to the free-love, drug-induced, hard partying lifestyle prevalent in the “mind-expanding” youth culture of the time. His new friends got him laid and gave him free drugs. They introduced him to minor celebrities in the worlds of fashion and art. They took him to clubs and gallery openings. What teenager without a moral compass wouldn’t have been excited to be accepted into the sophisticated adult world? This was his first exposure to art. He did not grow up taking painting lessons and visiting museums. His new friends also taught him the importance of avoiding the draft at all costs. Better to convince the military psychiatrists that you are a degenerate and get a I-Y deferral than be required to do military service.

When one of his art friends, Tom Daly, suggested that he follow the example of many generations of art students before him and start learning to paint by copying the works of old master painters, he was surprised with Perenyi’s facility with a brush. He copied Rembrandt, Hironymous Bosch and many others. Perenyi began to pay attention to the details of these pieces, what elements made up an artist’s style, what made a painting look old, the importance attached by experts to the age and make-up of the supporting canvas or panel. He worked in a restoration studio for a few years, learning all the tricks of the trade to restore older paintings and seeing the older pieces intimately. He saw firsthand the structure of older stretchers, the effects of honest aging on canvas, panel and paint. And, he began to experiment with faking these older paintings.

He drifted through life with a strong interest in the lifestyle afforded by lots of cash but no interest in developing honest skills to make a living. He also learned that a quick theft would net piles of money, while long days at any office were never going to make the kind of money he liked to spend. After reading a book on Han Van Meegeren, the Dutch art forger of the 1930s-40s who introduced whole new genre to Vermeers’ work and became a lavishly successful art forger, Perenyi was hooked. He began to try his hand at forgery.

At first, his efforts were slow. He sold a painting here or there to a dealer when he was hard-up for cash. He started with Dutch and Flemish-style unsigned paintings. When he progressed to copying known artists, he signed the paintings with the copied-artist’s signature but did not provide fake provenance or make any claims of attribution. He just showed up at various galleries with paintings in tow and let the dealers take a look. Acting as an unknowledgeable heir or unwitting garage-sale purchaser of a valuable painting and playing into the dealers’ greed to get what they considered very valuable paintings from the hands of rube was part of the ploy. Perenyi got special joy from beating the dealers at their own game. He justified his crimes with the knowledge that they were trying to strip the paintings cheaply from an unsophisticated owner and deserved what they got. He often added to this ruse by pretended coyness when a first purchase offer was made. This usually drove the offer price up.

Over the years, Perenyi honed his skills at fraudulent copies as well as his methodology of delivery to the market. He developed several fences who were aware that the paintings were fakes and were more than willing to sell them into the market and split the profits. He also developed extensive systems for living off the efforts of others and stealing whatever he wanted or needed. He developed expensive tastes for antique furniture and decorations. He proudly recounts the many times he and cohorts showed up with moving vans and loaded them up with expensive furnishings, from a small museum, a failed auction house, a boarding house in which he had resided. There is no sense of shame in these tales. Do not read this book thinking that it will end with any understanding of the moral depravity of the activities. These tales are told with the gleeful boastfulness of a megalomaniac who knows that the statute of limitations has expired and he has skirted the law.

In the 1970’s, about the time the marketplace was glutted with his “ Dutch and Flemish-school” paintings, Perenyi met an eccentric collector of American paintings, Jimmy Ricau. Ricau had acquired a large mansion in Piermont, NY and had filled it, basement to attic with Empire furniture, American paintings and Greco-Roman sculpture. Ricau became aware of Perenyi’s abilities to paint fakes. Ricau had a deep disdain for dealers of art and decided that his revenge would be to encourage Perenyi to branch into this field. Using his own collection of authentic American paintings, he tutored Perenyi in important connoisseurship points of late 19th C. American School paintings. He showed Perenyi the various supports favored by these artists, talked with him about the finer style points favored by collectors. He introduced such artists as John F. Peto, Raphaelle Peale, John F. Francis, Levi W. Prentice, James F. Butterworth, Antonio Jacobsen, William A. Walker, George Catlin, Henry Inman, Charles Bird King and Martin Johnson Heade to Perenyi. This field of art was quite hot at the time, and Perenyi’s fakes sold well. Although Perenyi himself was not yet approaching auction houses to sell his paintings, many of the paintings found their way to auction.

Perenyi and his partner Jose had moved to Tampa, Florida. They bought a complex of buildings and set up a restoration facility on one side and an antique furniture store on the other side. They became quite popular as restorers. Ken would restore paintings in the morning and paint fake ones in the afternoons. He met many influential people and sold them fakes as well as supplying a growing number of fences. At the prompting of one fence who said that Alexander Calder was “hot” and could be easily faked, Perenyi did a suite of large gouache paintings in his style. After an extended trip to London and Bath, Perenyi began to add 19th C. British School sporting paintings to his repertoire. He copied John F. Herring, James Seymour, Sartorious and many others of the era. The fact that his paintings kept showing up at auction and selling well emboldened him to start consigning the pieces for auction himself. He offered paintings in London and at smaller auction houses in the outlying counties. He eventually offered some pieces at Sotheby’s and Christies in New York. His biggest scores were both “Martin Johnson Heade” hummingbird and orchid paintings. The first he consigned to Christies-London and it was shipped to New York for sale. That is the sale that netted the $ 90,000 pay-day discussed in the opening pages. The second was consigned to Sotheby’s in 1994 and brought over $ 700,000 at auction.

In the 1990’s, James Wynne and the special agents of the FBI’s art squad did open a five-year long investigation of Perenyi. Many of his fake paintings had begun to surface at auction and the bureau had ample evidence that traced the paintings back to their source. However, it is not illegal to sell reproductions of an artist’s work. It is only illegal to misrepresent them as by the hand of the artist. Ever the wily fox, Perenyi was very suspicious of any cronies from the past who showed up wanting to talk about their exploits. He correctly assumed that they had been sent to him wearing recording devices in order to get him to admit knowledge that the paintings were being sold as fakes. Perenyi got himself a good lawyer and just waited out the investigation. He was never indicted. He speculates openly in the book that this very likely had to do with the fact that the duped auction houses did not want public attention drawn to his exploits since there would be public humiliation and likely financial liability for them when purchasers heard the news. He states that the auction houses likely did all they could to scuttle or delay the investigation until the statute of limitations expired.

I added this book to a growing subset of books in my library that cover the subject of fakes and frauds. Most are written long after the events by a historian who has spent the time to research all the shenanigans of a particular artiste-de-la-fraud. Most of these books also have some moral redemption in them because they recount the fatal flaws that lead to the unmasking of the lies and report on the legal trouble encountered by all who participated. There always does seem to be an element of glee in fooling the art world’s so-called experts woven into the motivations of the copyist. I collect and read this type of book for many reasons. First, as an art advisor and appraiser, I read them defensively. If I have in my knowledge base that fact that certain artists were successfully faked for long periods of time, it makes my antennae that much more sensitive as I examine the next painting. If I am aware of some of the many methodologies employed by the crooks, I can be aware of the limitations of examination while being aware that even the best in the field are sometimes fooled. I stated up front that reading this book was a necessary task. I found myself cringing at every page turn. I find it appalling that Perenyi duped people for so many years with his fake paintings with no legal consequences and doubly insulting that this book is his venue to brag about it. While I had to read it, and feel like I had to report on it in this blog, my greatest wish would be that the book would flop, that it would be given no press coverage and that Perenyi would die in oblivion. It is not a likely scenario in our prurient culture that absorbs and celebrates such anti-heroes with more enthusiasm than we give to people who make real contributions to society. Perenyi will likely get the 15-minutes of fame that he seeks from publishing this book. The book’s afterward states that he continues to pump fake paintings into the marketplace from his Florida studio and that they are collected as reproductions or as “Perenyi-copies.” I get nauseated just thinking about it.

Added to this Post on February 15, 2014

Hello Readers of this Blog Post,
When I first posted this article and started getting replies, I determined to post all that came in, regardless of viewpoint…with only two stipulations, the reply had to be cogently written and without profanity. You should know that today I am changing that policy. I have suspected all along that Perenyi himself, under the guise of a fake internet persona (of course) was offering up many of the justifications of his actions and defenses for this book. Why? Well to stir the pot and keep the book sales going…. duh. I am now getting replies from his ghost writer and the friend who suggested the name for the book. Sorry. I have played into the marketing role for this book long enough. Even my participation in the “CBS Sunday Morning” show is something I have grown to regret since the show gave many minutes of air time to a sentimentalized interview with Perenyi and about 15 seconds to the rebuttal. There will be no more posts on this topic. Write me privately if you wish. I will always read them.

26 thoughts on ““Caveat Emptor:” Don’t buy the book on Perenyi’s art forgery Career

    1. Nicolas Olivier

      Frankly the man maybe a forger – but not only immensely talented, but one who showed up the dubious claims of art ‘experts’ who are apparently nothing of the sort.
      In a similar way, the efforts of software hackers, who hack their way into highly sensiitive networks actually do all of us a favor, providing they do not steal from the poor and innocent – which most art collectors would be hard pressed to classify themselves as.

      Reply
      1. Art Advisor Post author

        Nicolas,
        While I disagree with your premise completely, from the assertion of Perenyi’s talent level to the assertion that stealing from the “un-poor” does society some sort of favor, I have a policy to post commentary on the blog as long as it it civil and cogent. The debate goes on…

      2. Nicolas Olivier

        But your response is a contradiction. You are inadvertently suggesting that the ‘experts’ and appraisers and collectors are less talented than a forger. So where is the real fraud being perpetrated ?

  1. Karl

    I don’t agree with any of your self righteousness. Showing the art world, more specifically the auction house world,for what it is is a service to us all. Perennial showed us the talent he had and how he chose to use it-giving us something beautiful. I have just emailed him to see what it would cost me for a sample of his work.

    Reply
    1. Art Advisor Post author

      Well Karl,
      Actually, I suppose that it does take a certain skill level at observation and mimicry to copy the style of someone who preceded by 100 + years and has already broken that ground. But, that is not generally considered talent any more than a good tile layer or talented carpenter is lauded for his/her skill. Perenyi has a very inflated sense of his value and his talent. He is a skilled liar and a thief. He loved punking auction house experts and getting paid for it. He is a criminal and his fakes have hurt real people. The fact that he is sly enough to escape prosecution and arrogant enough to write this book doesn’t change the fact that he should be in jail. BTW, I find it ironic that the only product bearing the man’s name is a book which he most certainly did not write. He told his sordid, inventive tale to some ghost writer who gets no credit.

      Reply
      1. karl

        Art Advisor-
        I have to immediately you pick you up on you comments re Trade skills. In any community you will find tradesmen lauded for their skills. I remember a Tiler- Brian- in London- and we still speak of his exceptional craftsmanship. Regarding wood- look at David Savage- he is a master with wood. Just because someone has broken ground before- that does not make my skills any less laudable. Exactly who is doing the “considering ” here? And what are the qualifications required to make these considerations.?
        Perenyi may be a liar and a thief, but you have to admire his talent and value. HE was able to punk the auction houses, and we all want to do that – as we get punked all the time by goings on in auctions. I have no problems with auctions- but I do have with organisations who have global clout and skim more than their fair share from an artists work. I also have problems with “experts” who dont have to stand by their prognosis-” merely offer to revisit the issue”. Who loses- the little man every time- (read artist)
        I have great respect for artists- I cant paint – but would love to. I bought 2 paintings last week and for a second I wondered if I had been “had”. it was not a nice feeling no matter how fleeting. I want artists to succeed- whether music/painting/ craft. I respect them. I admire them. I envy them their skill.
        Perenyis arrogance was what enabled him to name names- not names I know- but nevertheless names that have lost their gloss among their honest peers. Perenyi does not claim to be honest- the others do- and pretend to be from a respectable stratum of society.!
        Thank you for your considered and courteous reply- perhaps I should apologise for my initial brusque comments to you. Would love to carry this on!!!!!

  2. Art Advisor

    Karl,
    Believe me, I do not put the auction houses on a pedestal. As someone who broker’s art for clients on occasion, I have wondered if there was some force behind the scene working against a piece bringing what it should have at auction. The auction houses’ limiting conditions should be read carefully by anyone who considers buying and/or selling at auction. That being said, as someone who seeks each and every day to get to the truth of authorship on artwork and who occasionally has to be the one to share the disappointing news to owners who have long ago been duped and have no right of recovery, I consider forgers to be thieves. Someone like Perenyi can try to assuage his conscience by bragging about his conquests over the greedy actors in the art market. However, his participation in the early exploits of theft from museums, auction houses and individuals are just another version of what he did/does with a paintbrush. Real collectors are harmed. The integrity of the market is harmed.

    Reply
  3. Maggie

    Great debate. I find myself ping-ponged back and forth – – I like the feeling but then I’m in control of when it ends.
    No one likes to be had but we should always have a good sense of humor whenever we risk putting great value on any thing that doesn’t sustain life. Don’t get angry with me. Please. I know that life, evolution, needs more than sustenance; it also requires the stuff that enhances our journey.

    Reply
  4. Mike

    Your post I came across here made me want to read the book and look into Perenyi. You say don’t buy the book yet in your last paragraph you say it’s useful to understand what forgers do by reading these types of books. It seems to be about the same as saying don’t read a book on war because it’s not pretty. Art forgery is not pretty but it’s reality. The truth is the people who accepted these paintings are just as much to blame as Perenyi. They didn’t care about provenance. The auctioneers and dealers were more concerned with just turning a quick buck. If you really wanted the book to flop you shouldn’t of even mentioned it here or go on television working up this “anti-hero.” The whole message of this post just confuses me.

    Reply
    1. Art Advisor Post author

      Hello Mike,

      I do understand your frustration and the idea of mixed messages. I wrote the blog post several months ago, just as the book was launched. Quite frankly, I get a bit vexed myself with our culture’s fascination with crime and those who use their wits/talents to get away with stuff. I do believe that Mr. Perenyi’s life of crime was and is just that. I believe that he should be rotting in a jail cell. What he did was robbery. His chosen weapon was a paintbrush rather than a gun. However, REAL people, innocent people were and will be harmed in the future. I study forgery because, as an appraiser, my clients do rely on me to tell them the truth of what they have. Even though I am not, and do not hold myself out to be an authenticator, part of my job is to identify the art and I have had the unfortunate task of informing clients that what they thought was by a given artist was not. Generally, these revelations take place long after the owner has any right to rescind a sale or and right to go back and get a refund.

      The American public may have little for a collector who has invested lots of money in art and has found out that what he owns is fraudulent. Many might think that this sort of crime only affects the ultra wealthy and might glean some secret pleasure watching the “rich suffer.” I personally think that Perenyi’s victims are no less sympathetic that those of Bernie Madoff. They are real people investing in real art that will eventually be exposed as fools’ gold. It is no different than all the investors with Madoff who were left penniless when his fraudulent schemes were revealed. I would disagree with your point that auctioneers and gallery dealers do not care about provenance and were willing to ‘make a quick buck’ on the sale of these pieces. Having been an art researcher for many years, I know that MOST art comes to me with little to no provenance. Exacting provenance records are wonderful when they exist but that is rare. I cannot fault the auction houses for accepting paintings without provenance.

      As to my own participation in the interest in and selling of Perenyi’s book, well, I write that off to unintended consequences. I wrote the post because I was exorcised with Perenyi’s gall in writing this book bragging about his exploits. When CBS called me to ask me to appear regarding the book, I HOPED that the slant of the program would be to expose him for the thief and hack that he is. But instead the program romanticized him. More than one of my friends have compared him to the “Catch Me if you Can” story and I am sure Perenyi is just hoping that Hollywood will call. Ah Well…. I can only WISH that justice would be done.

      Reply
  5. Erica Turner

    My mother is an artist, and we all drew as children (none of us have the skill to be decent forgers). She got me this book as a birthday present, and although I enjoyed it far more than you did, I have printed out your review to put in my copy.
    Are there images of the $90,000 and the $700,000 Heade paintings online anywhere? Is it true that the $700,000 painting dissolved?
    Ultimately I agree that we should be happy that braggarts reveal their methods.

    Reply
    1. Art Advisor Post author

      Hello Erica,
      I have not pursued whether the fakes Perenyi offered are shown online. Even if they are shown online, we would not be able to tell the difference between a real Heade painting and the fake online. One of the reasons I insist on inspecting items I appraise in person is that once something is translated into an image, one has lost the ability to inspect so many qualities of the original…the front surface quality, the verso, the stretchers, the dimensions, etc. Any online image would be just that, a facsimile. And, as regards the ‘painting dissolving,’ I am not sure what you are referring to. Perenyi does make reference to the fact that it takes oil paint many years to dry completely. Some of his pieces would have ‘melted’ with normal solvents used to clean dirty varnish because the paint looked old, but was brand new.

      The book was yet another ‘necessary lesson’ for me as a appraiser. Doesn’t make me happy that this conscience-less guy is free to continue plying his deceptions.

      Reply
  6. Jed Sutherland

    Just finished reading this book. The fact that Mr. Perenyi is a gleeful, unabashed name-dropper, forger and big spender comes through pretty clearly. But so what? Many people are not very nice once you unfold their personalities. He has nice things to say about Roy Cohn; by many accounts a not-very-nice person. It depends on what facet(s) of the person you see.

    I always enjoy reading this genre of book as I like to understand the processes behind the creation of craft-type works. I also experience a sort of schadenfreude when I read about people who buy a work of art based on the name of the creator so they can have bragging rights or because they feel that the work will appreciate.

    You used the word “invested” with regard to art. Perhaps it is an investment in the strictest sense of the word. People tend to ignore the possibility that an investment won’t turn out to their advantage. If you invest in someone’s oil well, it may turn out to be dry; you lose the money you invested. Many people have invested money with scam artist who subsequently buggers off to Brazil with his mistress. Regardless, the rule is that your funds are at risk and you may lose all or some of the investment.

    Stocks and bonds are not especially pretty to look at. They are intended to be tools to fund the capitalist process. The benefit is that they will make more money for the investor. Or not.

    Art, on the other hand, has many connotations layered into its acquisition, but I believe that the primary reason is to enjoy and cherish the result of someone else’s vision. If you buy a fake because you like how it makes you feel, have you been defrauded?

    If you buy a work of art based solely on the financial returns it may bring, you are a fool or a cynic and perhaps you should take a lesson from your folly.

    Reply
    1. Art Advisor Post author

      Hello Jed,

      I totally agree with your notion that a person ought to collect art for the love of the pieces and the inspiration the artwork brings. That being said, I cannot dismiss Perenyi in the way one would a mocking child who gets away with a set of lies and laughs about it. Yes, there are people who invest in art. And investments do have risks. In the case of the stock market, if you had a Bernie Madoff who was gaming the system and got caught, the public expects the fraudster to be sent to prison for a LONG time. Why? Because he profited off his fraud; because real people got caught up in his lies and lost their money. Perenyi’s fraud is no different. The fact that he committed his crimes with a paintbrush and the fact that he fooled people for a long time does not change the fact that he was profiting off fraud. The public often turns a blind eye to art forgery. There seems to be a callous ethos that those who get caught with fraudulent art either can afford to lose the money or should have been more careful in their selections. Hey, I get it! The average person who is just working to keep the electricity on and food on the table does not see reason for apoplexy over forged paintings.

      The parts of the book that I DID find helpful were his discussions of methodology. I have an entire collection of books on art fraud and am always interested in how the schemes escaped detection for periods of time. As an art appraiser, that kind of information is vital to my knowledge base. The difference between this book and all the others in my collection is that the others were written by investigative journalists who followed up on the legal cases of forgers sent to prison. This one is written by a self-important crook who believes he is above the law. I ask you, would you have the same sympathy for Bernie Madoff if he had waited out the statute of limitations on his crimes then wrote about his escapades?

      Reply
  7. Karl

    Hello Art Advisor- I am jumping back in here regarding your library of fraud books, and your interest in the techniques used. Have you then any comment on Eric Hebborn’s book “The Art Forgers Handbook”. You can learn a lot from that book- whether you are a “blackhat” or a “whitehat”.

    Reply
      1. Art Advisor Post author

        I was aware of his case and read about it at the time it was unfolding (pun intended). I know he died under quite mysterious circumstances. So, this book gives his techniques? I appraise lots of works on paper and need to be aware of forgery techniques in that field.

      2. Karl

        Yes- this book gives a lot of his techniques, and a lot of hints to those interested in reading between the lines. Useful to those of us who take a lighthearted view of the subject. And for those of us interested in forgery (or copying)- it gives us hope that we can do it too- even if only what Hebborn calls “decorative copies”. The art equivalent of the Tribute Band??
        He has another book along the lines of his autobiography- and it is a good book. but beware- it is published under 3 different names- yes sadly I have a copy of all 3, with same content!! Obviously I wanted to soak the man up. There is also a BBC documentary of approx. 50 mins duration on youtube, giving an insight into the man. I find it hard not to like him, and would be interested to know your thoughts, but then comparing your thoughts to mine might just accentuate my (and maybe your ) prejudices towards the subject 😉
        Best wishes from The Emerald Isle- Karl

  8. gd

    I started a B&N “sample” of Perenyi’s book and intuited within five minutes of reading that he was an unrepentant sleazeball. So I googled his name and read your confirming comments with interest. Thanks!

    Reply
  9. George

    You are up there with all the other art lovers who buy a painting for a song from a honest Artist and then keep it a few years and sell it for a song. Why can’t a good artist earn a good living from his painting? If he had to do this to make real money for real talent – then good on him. I hope he does well and your blog and life falls into obscurity.

    Reply
  10. Pingback: Sequel Inspiration: Art Forger Ken Perenyi | Ravenscraig

  11. Bill

    Brenda, your review seems to come across as quite indignant and sanctimonious. Ask yourself this one question, are some art dealers any better then Ken Perenyi ? Yes, i agree with you this is not a victimless crime, and perhaps both parties are as much at fault as each other and the greed of all concerned seemed to be the motivating factor. So yes forgers are thieves.

    I would draw your attention to this article http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-11-04/nazi-artwork-haul-woth-more-than-1-billion-found-in-munich/5066706 i guess we can draw the same conclusion here, is it any more reprehensible to keep looted Nazi art and sell it piece by piece ?

    One has to ask if the auction houses that sold the works had done proper due diligence first, then perhaps the farce with the Heade could have been exposed before it even entered the marketplace ?

    Reply
  12. Jacob Khan

    Ken Perenyi upset the establishment of arrivistes and the nouveau riche. These are people without knowledge, capacity, pedigree or class. Without knowledge or appreciation of art.What Ken did was itself a work of art. He brought the fakers in society, the posers, the wankers with money to the surface.

    I have worked with art dealers and continue to work with them. I am a lawyer with a busy insolvency practice which of late has seen the re emergence of the works of European and other masters worth tens of millions of dollars seeking out buyers.

    Many of these were ‘salted’ away in places like Lichtenstein, the British Virgin Islands, Switzerland and other jurisdictions that tax avoiders and others seeking anonymity or refuge from public recognition tend to prefer for one reason or the other.

    Many of these works of art have been thoroughly assessed for their authenticity and their provenance (where available) verified. Now here is the interesting part of this story.

    The bulk of these works of art were ‘salted’ away during the heady days prior to the GFC of 2007-2008. They were loosely given as security for loans to participate in closed hedge fund investments with some of the biggest names in the hedge fund and investment banking business. None were properly secured by the banks. None were taken possession of. Thats how loosely deals were done then.

    An intermediary (or shall I say 3 intermediaries) who were feeder funds to a notorious master fund had these works of art “securitised” (if at all) then ‘salted’ away. Over these works they purported to have created (unenforceable and fictitious) securities and charges for loans to participate in the hedge fund rackets.

    Upon the collapse of the largest of these funds, no one wanted to raise their hands or to mention the works of art they once owned or admit to ownership of these to investigators from the SEC and the IRS. It was not in their possession so no hard questions arose for them to respond to. They had lost tens of millions of dollars in the collapse of the major broker and his fund.

    Its been nearly a decade since. The beneficiaries of the estates of those investors who owned the art and who are deceased have no rights in them because the paintings in fact ‘do not exist’ as far as they are concerned and were not available to the estates at the time of their demise. Probate given, these deceased estates have made distributions to beneficiaries and wound up having properly come to an end.

    Each time, as I have on a number of occasions, come across someone who has paid a great fortune, an amount of money (with zeros stretching into the stratosphere) I ask myself (an art buff and enthusiast but not an expert) how much should they have paid for their purchase? Did they pay for an original and do they really know anything about art at all?

    If Christie’s, Bonhams, the British Museum, the Dutch art Museums, the Louvre, Wildensteins and Sotheby’s do not know so much about art as they are reputed to know, how much more does an oil rich Arab know about it? How much more does a Chinese billionaire know about it and what it is they are buying?

    Something more to think about: Where are the originals of the fakes sold by Christies and Sothebys in their place? Both Sotheby’s and Christie’s were ensnared in not just the fraud of century of the art market but also in a price fixing scam that landed the owner of one of them up in jail for 2 years.

    If you wish to know more drop me a line: counsel888@gmail.com

    Reply

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